I love straight talking CEOs. Most people have a pretty good BS-meter. When someone – especially their own management and especially executive management – is trying to “spin” something, or hide bad news, or similar secretive activities, people can smell it. Some have better sensors, some worse, but employee morale takes a hit, and in the worst way. Consultants like me are pretty good at ferreting out why employees are unhappy, but it is extremely hard when there is simply a sense that execs are hiding something, but employees cannot clearly articulate it, and often are afraid to mention it even if they can; after all, if management kept it secret, could their even mentioning it get them into trouble?
Given that, I have learned to really appreciate straight talking CEOs, one who say it like they mean it, hide very little, and talk with the employees, not down at them. Call it the “Anti-Wise Men” philosophy of management; unlike those in some past administrations who believed that a few really “Wise Men” with enough information could make better decisions than the rest of us, and thus deserved to be better treated, better paid, and no lip from the unwashed masses, straight-talking CEOs believe that every employee has a brain, makes their own decisions, and has what to offer.
A great story came out this week about Apple during the beginning of its revival in 1987. I won’t repeat the story here, just read the post, but for those of us with too many smooth-talking and polished executives who cannot understand how to rally the team (in history books, read HP), refreshing candor is a great way to do it. But start with trusting your staff; they are probably smarter than you, definitely in their own domain of expertise. If you cannot, you shouldn’t have hired them (or be in charge yourself).